Missing The Obvious: The Next Decent Star Trek Game

The fall of Star Trek in video games is nothing new, although it isn’t really documented properly. What do I mean by that? Well, every time you see a Star Trek game released, or mentioned, budding journalists – who are all my age and have very fond memories of getting in from school and watching The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 on TV, but thankfully were too busy to pay any attention to Enterprise – lament the lack of a decent game to play.

However, journalists and fans, I test you. Do you actually recall the name of the last decent game? Do you even get to look past the fan-boy nostalgia and remember an enjoyable experience playing one? Because I don’t! Let me list for you the last Star Trek games I recall that were actually good.

  • Starfleet Academy (PC)
  • Bridge Commander (PC)
  • Elite Force (PC… Yes I know it was console ported but it was PC)
  • Judgement Rites (PC)

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star trek science phaser

You see where I’m going with this. Sorry, consoles, but you’ve sucked at producing good original Star Trek games. Does anyone remember Invasion? No. Legacy? Maybe, because it was recent-ish. But the two most recent games (a non-tie-in-movie-tie-in and a MMORPG/DOGFIGHTING game) are mostly PC based as well. You can find Anthony’s review of Star Trek here if you need a reminder. I’d certainly argue that there hasn’t been a great amount of Star Trek games that go above an “OK” rating. Probably the two Elite Force games mostly and maybe Klingon Honour Guard.

So your point is, Sean, that Star Trek games have failed because the good ones are only on PC? No. Star Trek games have failed because there is a very limited scope of people that play them, enjoy them and who are ultimately unhappy at the quality so much they tend to not impart their money for them. It’s not just Star Trek but Star Wars and most other space based games.

Arguably, Kerbal Space Program and Eve Online are the most popular and successful space-science-fiction based games at the moment. And the latter being kept that way due to a fanatical community who subscribe to play it. But you wouldn’t say that either are popular in the mainstream sense and therefore in the big AAA console game world, they are unlikely to gross large amounts.

The last Star Wars game that was incredibly successful on console was probably Lego based. Something that the original ten Star Trek Movies would actually really benefit from. Which is why we are missing the obvious. We aren’t looking for the right Star Trek game! Let’s face it, in this world of Call of Battlefield, Forza Tourismo and independent gaming, there isn’t a lot of room for the dogfighting/FPS/RPG stylings that Trek and Wars could do excellently.Lego-Star-Wars-02 Purely because for the longevity of their intellectual properties, they really haven’t produced anything new in ten years. I know the new Star Trek movies have come and new Star Wars are coming and that the Clone Wars was a big hit. But they weren’t really new, were they? They were still that enjoyable science-fiction romp you enjoyed in your pre-pubescent years. Not exactly the core gaming audience nowadays.

So I do see journalists, bloggers and observers remark how they’ve lamented a decent Star Trek game, or that the closure of Lucasarts has left a void of classic space gaming like the X-Wing series (more on that next month) that no one can or has yet filled. But I ask you, given the hammy-ness and nostalgia that Trek has now especially, could you do worse than a two/three part Lego series of games? The Original six movies, the four Next Generation era movies and maybe a nod to the five television series it graced us with for nearly 40 years? No. No you couldn’t.

You want to know the obvious thing everyone is missing here?

A cinematic with a Lego Kirk shaking in anger to a point where he screams “KAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN” and spontaneously falls apart. I’ve already pre-ordered that game in my mind.

Oh and if you think I’ve criminally missed Mass Effect, you’re right, I have. But for good reason, which you will read soon.

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Missing the Obvious: Easy Money

Note: like most articles on casual games, this article has been created with little research into the subject or my fellow commuters, much to their annoyance of hearing my iPad keyboard tapping.

Video games are the in the business of making money, correct? Well mostly, It’s the people that give you the games, the retailer, that want to make the money. Then it’s those huge publisher entities that distribute those games that enjoy the ol’ green paper. Then maybe, just maybe, the people that actually make the games, the developers, are next in the table. (That was sarcasm in case you thought otherwise)

pokemon red iOS games have changed that. Kind of. Apple still take money as the retailer and distributor. The developers can get more money, unless the studio is owned by one of those big publisher types. Why am I explaining this fairly obvious business and wealth distribution model? Because it baffles me, seeing as how much that piece of paper with the Queens Head/Pyramid with eye/local dictator on it is desired by all of these people and yet, they miss a very obvious easy money.

Retro games have slowly come in to the mobile fold over the past four years as technology has increased. Rockstar are probably the most commercially successful with the releasing of a back catalogue. Sega have released a few things at a far earlier stage in the mobile games market. But here is the one I’m really confused about. Pokemon.

Ok, let me point out the obvious flaws in my plan. This is a Nintendo exclusive and so they never release a game on other platforms really. There is probably a hilariously complex set of rights issues stopping not only a rival release but also a previous game. Also releasing on a mobile platform might belittle the sales and effectiveness of their consoles, most notably the 2DS and 3DS. So why would they want to do it?

pokemon blue red yellow 2

Simple. In the US, UK and Japan combined, Pokemon Red, Green and Blue (the original 1999 Gameboy releases) sold 23,810,000 copies approximately. So the reason to do this would be £47,381,900. I get that figure by working out that almost 24 million sales to the fair and modest figure of £1.99 on the App Store.

A mobile release of the original three games would cause such a nostalgia trip (remember most of these people with iPhone specifically probably had the game on the Gameboy) that you couldn’t resist. I couldn’t and I didn’t even have a Gameboy! The games are old enough not to dent anything that Nintendo are currently doing and it’s a very fat cash-in at a time where the company are arguably going to be on the back foot due to the now current generation’s ‘charge’ attack on the dazed gamer.

But those rights issues and competitor conflicts of interest – Nintendo would never allow a release of a Nintendo portable game on a mobile device at all. They would never… Oh wait. LOOPHOLE!!!

ace attorney 1I present the evidence that the company will allow games to go to competitors for sales by developers. You can sit there in the dock, poor Nintendo; pleading innocence and feigning ignorance, but take this: EVIDENCE!!!!! POW! Alex Wright Ace Attorney. This game has in fact been released twice on iOS, once as a big complete edition and before as an easier package with add-ons for the fairly non-modest price of around £8.

So we’re saying that actually Nintendo could release maybe a coloured upscaled Pokemon Red, Green and Blue? That they could actually charge a more fair and profitable £4.99 as a guess? That’s a possible £118,811,900 in sales. I’m pretty sure once presented with those hastily constructed figures, shareholders would make Nintendo find a way to make this happen.

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SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow Add-On Review

I’ll be honest here, which is the least you can expect from a game reviewer. I’m still playing this add-on as I write the review. In fact I’ve started a new city and I’m at 1,400 residents. Not only have I played it myself but I’ve watched others online and I feel I’m now at a stage to review this add-on to the most recent SimCity iteration with as little hypocritical finger pointing to be directed at myself.

Why hypocritical? Because I actually really like SimCity and without spoiling other articles like the fantastic games of the year feature, I am a big fan of the game in itself. However, I feel has been sadly overshadowed by the almost comically poor approach to launch and consumer satisfaction management from EA, that seems to be a problem not just exclusive to SimCity (Battlefield 4 anyone?).

Which is why I’m ultimately left feeling utterly disappointed. I’m from a generation where an add-on pack costs £15. It gives you new levels, it improves upon features that the main game had just got a bit wrong. It basically extended the playing life of that game. SimCity – Cities of Tomorrow tries to do that. It really does try. But I feel it ultimately does not succeed. Here’s why:

Firstly, it doesn’t really bring you anything new to the game. This is partly because additions have already come to the game. They’ve been trickled out slowly and have sweetened a deal that was originally seen as a bit sour. The additional maps and potential buildings that would make this a proper package have already been released. So while there is an excuse for how little this add-on has, it does raise a question of a justifiable price for it.

To explain these additions a little more, the game has gone all high tech. Now there is an additional element in the game you can make called “Omega.” This can lead you down two roads: filthy industrial development and mega income, or a clean high-rise educational utopian vision. There are a few things that have been “futurised” as well. You get to build new Megatowers which are constructed in blocks of different game areas (commercial, residential, industrial, educational, etc) and these correspond to whichever path you decide to go down. Other new buildings include water pumps, cleaner energy/waste disposal and a neat high altitude road for connecting the “Megatowers” you construct in whichever vision you choose.

Which is where I come on to a second point. Visually, the game has always been very good. The Megatowers look stunning. The High wealth academy towers look like beautiful futuristic havens of success, almost like they are right out of the movie Elysium. But personally, I feel they pale in comparison to the dirty, high industrial Omega franchises, which have a air of Blade Runner about them. Dark, dingy buildings splattered with neon and look incredibly imposing and dystopian once put together. Visually the futurised areas also change. New house, industry and commercial building models appear, the roads have a texture that you could use to play Blockbusters on and it all looks rather swell. Even the low wealth houses with laser fences that look like dinosaur pens from Jurassic Park.

The problem though is that this is where the fun ends. Not enough of the game has changed for these really to make a difference to the overall gameplay, or to reinvigorate the gameplay sufficiently. After nearly a year playing the game that has been heavily criticised for its limited scope in building and creating the vast metropolis’s it’s famed for, all this add-on really does is give a slightly fresh lick of paint and another few buildings to try and squeeze in to an already busy and tricky economical system. Cities of Tomorrow integrates in to the existing framework so you start the game, region, road layout, city planning and everything else just like you already would. You then do the slow process of waiting to grow, timing your expansion and how to substitute the wealth factor of your residents. Overall there is zero difference between how you play the game in either the add-on or basic game. At least not enough in the early stages to warrant it being a useful part of the game and even then, it just solves some problems later on at a cost of potential building space.

Which leads me to my final gripe and it’s a gripe for anyone who’s ever heard the name Dr.Vu… You STILL can’t turn it off. Of all the additions that have been released, there is no option to deselect them from your gameplay, this included. Once you’ve installed it, you won’t be able to go back. Of course you can just not select anything from the add on, but the bubbles will pop up, your GUI will be changed and you’ll forever be clicking “No Thanks” while screaming “I DON’T GIVE A FLYING MONKEY’S MATURING INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO ABOUT DOCTOR SODDING VU!”

I’m now at 2,300 residents. The game has also made me demolish a whole row of abandoned houses, which doesn’t seem to be repopulating. My residents are unhappy, sick and I can’t get enough money because the Omega is costing too much in imported materials to produce. I’m stuck in a rather boring looking grid system town with a few trees, a couple of parks and some flat looking shopping areas… I might as well have just visited Milton Keynes.

Summary

An outrageously overpriced add-on pack (unless it’s on sale) that adds very little to the game except a lick of paint and a new resource challenge. Completely devalued by the constant release of additional content for free, although it does look rather cool.

Good Points

– Make your own Blade Runner city

– Rather satisfying clean energy and a few fresh building models.

Bad Points

– Very little change to the game

– Makes other game strategies a bit redundant

– Can’t turn it off

– Too much money.

Why a 5?

Because even though I love the game a lot, even I can’t justify the price for the lack of content and small gameplay life extension it gives.